A Cumbersome Obstacle to Education: Censorship

In Book II and Book III of the Republic, Glaucon and Socrates discuss the implication of justice and how education can help create a model citizen who could identify what is just. Socrates approaches this situation by “[creating] a city in theory from its beginning”, so they can oversee potential problems that they might encounter (369c). In order to have a sustainable city, Socrates suggests that there would be a division of labor in which people specialize in different tasks. However, Glaucon disagree that bare necessities are sufficient for a satisfactory life. War is an inevitable scenario when luxurious pursuits exist in their world. Hence, Glaucon and Socrates start discussing how guards should be developed since they are young to “be gentle to their own people and harsh to the enemy” (375c).

Education in Socrates’s world can be described in one word: censorship. Socrates argues that the depiction of Greek gods is immoral, so “everyone will be ready to excuse himself when he’s bad” (391e). However, one’s opinion is often prone to be subjective and biased, and Socrates’s is not an exception. Socrates only wants to expose his guards to what he approves. In this regard, he is the opposite of what education should be: an unlimited freedom to explore the world. In order to distinguish justice from injustice, one needs to know what is right and what is wrong. Hence, it is impossible to cherish what is just when one does not know what being unjust means. Instead of censoring the materials that one deems obscene, one should analyze and explain why those materials are immoral to one’s students. Censorship is ignorance. Whereas, trusting in the basic virtues in human enough to teach sinful things is wisdom.

In conclusion, Socrates contradicts his usual belief that wisdom is the gateway to achieve “eudaimonia” by censoring knowledge. Hence, a real education, regardless of the time period, should allow human beings unlimited access to what mankind already knows, for the “unknown” is only discovered with a good grasp of the “known”.


3 responses to “A Cumbersome Obstacle to Education: Censorship

  1. I think that what Socrates means by censorship is that they must restrict the materials that children are taught and told. In Socrates mind, children are the most malleable in their current stage, and it is the time where they develop their personal virtues and beliefs. As a result, he will select what should be taught to them, and he will encourage mothers to read certain stories to the children. However, once they have grown up, they will be allowed to read whatever they want due to their values having been solidified. I believe that there is some merit in Socrates argument that some things should not be shown to children.

  2. Building off of Allen’s comment, I think it is also important to examine what kind of censorship Socrates was advocating for. In some Greek stories, the gods and heroes were represented to be selfish, greedy, jealous, and evil sometimes. Socrates did not want the young to view the gods in such light. The gods and heroes were role models for the kids; the kids modeled their behavior upon them. As a result, Socrates thought it was important to depict them as genuinely good and virtuous for the kids. With that being said, I believe that this kind of censorship is justified.

  3. I totally agree with your points about Socrates wanting to censor vices from young children. However, I personally believe that there is value in teaching children how to distinguish vices from goodness at a young age. It is a platform for adults to diagnose potential psychopaths. Psychopaths are born ruthless and merciless. They tend to abuse animals or cause incidents such as starting a hazardous fire. Thus, by teaching vices to young children, people can know which children are excited about the vices and prevent them from environments that could bring out the worst case of psychopaths in them a.k.a serial killer. Instead of the bad types of psychopaths as grown-ups, they can be more influential psychopaths like lawyers and bankers.

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